The Life Cycle of an Ub3r Driver Part 5: Happy Hour
Friday Paul Ayo
All Rights Reserved, Copyright 2020
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My next passengers stumbled out of a bar at 2:30AM. Normally, I would avoid this ride, but it was “Happy Hour,” a special time, when night clubs close and their patrons file into the streets searching for safe passage home.
The demand for rides skyrockets, and this fare was seven times the normal rate. The potential gains made my decision to take the ride easy, but the usual routine with drunk passengers led me to say a small prayer as they approached my car.
The first passenger, I called him the Apologist, moved like he had a few but his equilibrium was intact. The second passenger was so-far-gone he was using the air like handrails to keep his balance, I called him Hiccups.
The Apologist was the first to reach the car. His friend stood next to him and stayed silent. Then the Apologist motioned for me to lower my window.
He peered in. “Hey, Jay! You’re our driver, right?” he asked me.
“That’s what the app says.” I told him as I unlocked the doors.
“Cool. We’ve been drinking a little. Can you take us?”
I had already made my decision about the ride, but he and his friend simply stood outside the car as if they were awaiting permission. I stared at them for a few seconds. The silence grew awkward, and they took slow breaths like they were concealing their intoxication.
“Are you guys getting in?” I asked.
“I’m really sorry about this,” said the Apologist. “We’re just trying to get home.” Then he stared at me while Hiccups swayed back and forth.
I wasn’t sure about the nature of this stand-off, so I decided to give them clear instructions and a clear warning about the trip. “As long as you don’t plan on throwing up, you’re good to go. Go ahead and get in.”
“Oh no, man! We’re clutch. We won’t throw up in your car. We’re good!” the Apologizer said as he and his friend stuffed themselves into the backseat.
A sense of relief overcame me as I hit the slider to begin the trip and they were quiet. Then I sighed when I saw the ETA was 45 minutes.
The beginning of the ride was quiet save the music and the fact Hiccups started a conversation.
His voice sounded like a record slowed to .25 speed. That’s slow for a record. He yelled, “Hey!” then he’d stop. Then he yelled, “Hey! I gotta tell you something.”
I ignored him, because that’s what you do to drunk people. You ignore them and they usually find another more distracting thing to interest them. Then he yelled, “Hey, I got a little d—! You wanna see it?”
I questioned reality, his audacity, and how much longer I had before I reached their destination. I saw I had 15 minutes. “No!” I said and kept driving.
His friend chuckled and apologized. “I am so sorry about that.”
“Hey!” Hiccups yelled again. “I swear it’s small as s—-.” he said out loud.
His friend apologized again, “I’m so sorry.”
Hiccups tapped my seat. “Hey! Hey! Can you hear me?”
My brow furrowed and I recalled the night I almost physically removed a passenger from my car. I remembered where my wasp spray, pepper spray, and extreme measure apparatus was hidden, and I saw I had only 5 more minutes before I dropped these guys off, so I didn’t want to start an altercation this close to the end of their trip, but I still said something back, because my Black ancestors would definitely look at me kind of sideways if I didn’t say something. “If you touch my seat again, you’re gonna be walking. Get yo’ friend.”
“Wait, wait I’m sorry about this.” The Apologist said. “I got it. He won’t bother you again. I can tip you. Here’s an extra $20.” He placed it on my center console.
“I don’t want your money,” I said.
“It’s no biggie. I can pay more,” he said.
I told him, “You can’t do bull—- in my car and get away with it for 20 bucks.”
He retrieved the money from the console, and I kept driving.
“Oh, you’re right. I’m sorry,” he said again as he placed the money back into his pocket. “We need this ride.”
I kept driving as my anger thumped along with the song that was playing. It was one of those 90’s R&B songs I played to calm passengers at night, “Rock Steady” by the Whispers. The music had calmed everything down, but that’s when Hiccups earned his name. He started firing off high pitch hiccup after hiccup like someone was pressing a hiccup button on a gag reel at a comedy show.
And to make matters worse, he turned his attention to his friend.
“I did yaeger and whiskey,” he said then hiccuped.
His friend who didn’t share my desire to keep things quiet. Met this force with force.
“You only did yaeger. You’re a b— dog,” said the Apologist.
“You’re the b—- dog. You drank that cheap —- whiskey, hiccup!”
“Don’t talk about me because you’re not a man. You’re the b—- dog, bro!”
“Your ex-wife thinks I’m the man, Bro!”
“Naw, Bro, your mom thinks, I’m THE MAN.”
They started laughing.
“Dude, Bro, we should have never done that wife swap s—-. I mean—”
Fortunately, I had reached their destination and I unlocked the doors. I took a good look at the surroundings and saw overgrown lawns and old cars parked in the middle of yards. There were piles of lumber, piles of roofing shingles, and construction waste left on the sidewalks. I peered around, and it felt like the darkness had eyes.
The friend, the Apologizer, stared at the boarded up homes and vacant lots then said, “This isn’t the address.”
I said, “Yes, it is.” I showed him the location pin on my driving app. “This is the right place.” I mentioned as the screen prompted me to end the trip.
The Apologizer spun his head from side to side like a supernatural demon trying to scare people. “Oh no, this isn’t the right address. We stay at another address. This is southwest not northwest.”
I tapped my steering wheel and said, “You entered the wrong destination.”
He fumbled to get his phone out of his pocket. “I’m so sorry about that. I can change it.”
I thought to myself, No you won’t. You can leave—
There was an alert on the app and the drop-off location changed.
“It’s just a few minutes from here,” said the apologizer.
I said, “That’s 30 minutes from here.”
“It’s cool,” said the Apologist. “I will take care of you on the app. Please, take us home.”
Hiccups burped an additional plea, “Take us home. Please, Man. I’m sorry.” He hiccupped again. “Did I tell you that I’m sorry? I don’t have a d—. I’m sorry I said that. This isn’t where we live.”
“Here you go,” the Apologist said as a new notification appeared on my phone. It said, CONGRATULATIONS! $100 Tip.
I stared at the amount, took a deep breath then turned to them. “Are you sure this is the right place? I’m not doing this again.”
“Yes,” the Apologizer said.
I thought of keeping the tip and dumping the two men at the current location. They’d sort it out with their money, I thought. Then I thought about my fare tripling as I drove them to the northside. Then I considered how much I inconvenience myself just to make a little more money. I pondered the alternatives, and I overlooked them as I thought about the cash.
As the drive began, Hiccups belched and the car began to smell like alcohol and whatever food he was eating prior to drinking. I lowered my window and blasted my small air freshener into the air.
“It’s ok, man,” the Apologizer said. “We just had a hiccup. We’re good, now.”
Then Hiccups started again with his friend. “What’s your favorite sports team?”
The Apologist said nothing.
“It’s ok,” said Hiccups. “They suck!”
“What’s your favorite car?”
His friend didn’t respond.
It’s ok. They suck!” Hiccups yelled, again.
“What’s your favorite city?”
They continued like this for the next few minutes. I did not interrupt. After the 10th time Hiccups yelled, “They suck!”
The Apologist had had enough. “I’m so sorry.” He said to me. Then he turned to his friend, “Shut the f— up!” he screamed. “Stop bothering me.”
“No!” Hiccups yelled. “F— that! You don’t tell me s—.” Then he mimicked a Hip-Hop song by Bone Crusher, “I ain’t neva scared! I ain’t neva scared! I ain’t neva scared…” He chanted a dozen times.
I was impressed by how much his courage had grown since we left the southside. They continued to argue like this until I reached the gate to their driveway. The area was pristine. Colorful flower beds and manicured blankets of grass cascaded up and down hills that lined their driveway. There was also a call box with a large camera and glowing numbers. When I pressed the talk button a person responded. “Hello.”
Hiccups yelled from the back seat, “Davis, Daaavisss, Daaaaaviiiisssss! It’s me, Howie.”
“Mr. Greensboro,” the voice responded. “I’m opening the gate now.”
The gate creaked open and stopped with a sharp mechanized thud. I started down the gravel driveway that was lined with cypress trees on both sides. We reached a clearing and I saw five horse stables lit with gas lanterns and a very large house raised on a hill with lights to illuminate the structure.
Hiccups leaned into the front seat. “Bet you never seen s— like this?” he said.
I balled my fist to punch him in the nose, but his friend grabbed him and pulled him into the backseat.
“I’m so sorry about that,” the Apologist said as he showed me his hands in the way you do when you don’t want any trouble. “We are just up ahead. Can you drop us at the house?” “Sit back!” he said to his friend as I kept driving.
Hiccups will burped again. The smell was unbearable.
“You can’t hold me. You can’t hold me. You can’t hold me,” he started to sing like a drunk cowboy.
I bypassed my anger as I held my breath and lowered all of my windows.
“You never saw my d—,” Hiccups said again. “It’s really small. You still have time to see it—”
“Have a nice night,” I said as I stopped the car in their circular cobblestone driveway.
“I’m sorry,” the Apologist said again as he pushed his friend out of the car. “Thank you so much for driving us here, please drive back the way you came and security will let you out.”
I managed an, “Ok,” as I watched Hiccups and the Apologizer start toward the house.
As he took his first step, Hiccups swayed and grasped at the air rails he had used earlier to keep his balance. This time, he swayed, stumbled, and fell onto his face.
The Apologist ran to his friend and tried to gather him from the ground. “Oh God, Get up, get up, you dumb f—!” he said to Hiccups.
Hiccups flailed at his friend and rolled onto his back. There was blood streaming from his nose. The Apologist continued his attempt to help, but Hiccups fought him off, blowing air bubbles and spitting the blood from his nose onto his friend. Hiccups then rolled back onto his stomach and pretended he was swimming. His friend fought his thrashing arms and tried to avoid the blood spewing from his friend’s mouth. “Get up,” he continued to plead.
I watched them for a moment then thought, “I’m sorry,” as I drove away.